EPA: Freeze in the Winter and Burn Up in the Summer

The Environmental Protection Agency just put a giant lump of coal in the stocking of America’s utility companies in the form of the Utility MACT Act. MACT stands for Maximum Achievable Control Technology, and the rule is designed to fulfill Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to make electricity bills skyrocket. From Hot Air:

According to Scott Segal, the director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, this rule…is the most expensive air rule the EPA has ever proposed in terms of direct costs.

“Utility MACT will undermine job creation in the United States in several different ways,” Segal explained. “It will result in retirement of a significant number of power plants and either fail to replace that capacity or replace it with less labor-intensive forms of generation. It will increase the cost of power, undermining the international competitiveness of almost two dozen manufacturing industries, and it will reduce employment upstream in the mining sectors. All told, it is anticipated that the rule will result in the loss of some 1.44 million jobs by 2020. While some jobs are created by complying with the new rule, the number and quality of those jobs is far less than those destroyed. We estimate that for every one temporary job created, four higher-paying permanent jobs are lost.”

The EPA has tried to mitigate the outcry against this rule by including a so-called “safety valve” provision in the rule. Ordinarily, the Clean Air Act (under which the Utility MACT rule falls) mandates that plants comply with the regulations within a three-year time frame. Understandably, some plants might not be able to upgrade within that allotted span — and too many shutdowns could affect electricity reliability. The “safety valve” provision allows up to five years for compliance.

But this doesn’t actually address the reliability question. Why? Plants won’t know up front whether they qualify for the extra year or two. Instead, they’ll have to attempt to upgrade in the first three years — and then, if their best attempts to meet the requirements fail, they can apply for extra time to comply. In the process, they’ll spend millions of dollars and still potentially face a shutdown. It wouldn’t be surprising if plenty of plants opted to shut down right away, rather than risk wasting three years attempting to meet the requirements only to be denied extra time and shut down in the end. Whether a plant qualifies for extra time will be solely up to the discretion of EPA officials, anyway.

In other words, the combination of the Utility MACT rule with the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (or CSAPR, pronounced “Casper”) could close dozens of power plants across the U.S., causing rolling blackouts and the loss of good-paying power plant jobs. Not that environmenalists care about either of those things. After all, they think that (a) we can snap our fingers and make wind farms and solar panels more efficient than fossil fuels and (b) all those power plant workers can just go work in “green technology” companies (propped up by taxpayer funds, of course).

Contrary to what Democrats say, nobody is in favor of dirty air. What we do favor is reasonable time frames for adding environmental equipment that doesn’t compromise the power grid or American jobs. Democrats seem, by turns, mystified why companies aren’t using their stashed-away bucks to create jobs and angry that companies try to evade the most onerous regulations through litigation. Perhaps if the EPA wasn’t trying so hard to kill the power industry, more jobs–the kind that pay a living wage–would be created.

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